Are we ignoring what poor spelling skills could be telling us?

My posting on spelling and grammar prompted a lot of comments, including this thoughtful email from a high school teacher.

With the teacher’s permission, here is the note:

I don’t respond to blog posts with emails very frequently but I thought I’d take the time to respond to your spelling and writing post from Dec. 3rd because it resonates with me closely. Only a few of your commenters approached the issue in the same way that I do: that phonics, spelling, and grammar absolutely must have a place in today’s classroom all the way through 12th grade, not because it’s “right” or “correct” but because it’s good teaching!

In order to help explain how I ended up with that position, I’d love to share my story as a new language arts teacher. Last year was my first year teaching. Sometime in January, after a whole fall semester of trial and error, I came to teaching vocabulary skills through using prefixes, roots, and suffixes.

I wanted to start off the new strategy with some easy words so I picked bio as my first root word. The first word: biology, the study of life. Every student in my class knew the definition of biology and that “ology” means “the study of.” That’s pretty much lesson one of biology class and my students aced it.

The next word: microbiology. Not a single student could tell me what it meant. Crickets. Somehow adding a prefix confused them so much that they could not determine what this new word meant even though it contained the word we just discussed previously. Something was terribly wrong.

Back in grad school we discussed the concept of a “schema,” which means, basically, a framework or pattern applied to something. My students’ schema for words was to treat them as a whole piece. When I added micro to the front of biology, I confused them because, from their point of view, I had created an entirely new word.

It’s as if I added another angle to a triangle and created a square. The problem is, that’s not how words work. Words have constituent parts which contribute to their meaning. My students were missing out on a major piece of their literacy because they were seeing words as a whole, unchangeable unit.

Not only does this have implications for their reading comprehension (How on earth can they figure out new, unfamiliar words if they can’t determine prefix,root, suffix?) but it also makes the task of writing much harder because they have no strategies for generating new words to fit their intended meaning.

When writing, suffixes are especially important because they determine the part of speech and tense of a verb. How many students go through years of instruction and never have subject/verb agreement? We tend to think it’s a matter of practice-makes-perfect. I think it’s a matter of teaching the nature of words.

Oh, you know what else? These were 9th grade students, 14-and 15-year-old kids who were completely unaware of a major component of the English language.

It should come as no surprise that they were also terrible spellers. Now, I have to pause and get on to you a little bit here, Maureen. Your examples from the presentation, it’s and its, are not misspelled. They are misused. And that’s a world of difference when you’re in my position and have to figure out where each kid’s language breakdown is occurring.

My students (and this is equally true of my current crop of 9th grade students) were at a total loss when it came to reading and spelling most words longer than two syllables. Some of my students were in even worse shape. I had and have students who don’t realize that vowels in the English language make two different sounds, long and short. Many of my students couldn’t tell me why the letter C sounds like an /s/ sometimes and a /k/ other times.

The root cause of spelling errors isn’t spellcheck. It isn’t using too much text messaging shorthand. It’s a lack of phonics knowledge. Letters make sounds. There are rules for why letters make those sounds. If you know the rules, you can spell anything. Most adults came of age in a world where their teachers were very prescriptive about spelling and grammar. Even without the schools pushing it, students acquire language skills naturally through their interaction with family and friends.

This is one of the reasons why reading with young kids is so important: you’re inculcating the rules which govern our language. Unfortunately, many students don’t have that in their lives. When a student misses out on the chance to develop an understanding of phonics “organically,” the schools have to pick up the slack.

But are schools going “back to basics”? Are they looking for students who miss out on the foundations of good literacy? I don’t know. After a year and a half, I can’t say for certain that there’s a system in place to target these students. That’s why I feel like I have to do it in my class; I can’t depend on the school system to meet their needs adequately prior to walking in my door every August.

I think we instinctively avoid mentioning these deficiencies and instead point to how impressed we are by the content. Presenters would rather talk about how impressive their students are from an analytic standpoint. I know I would. But spelling and writing are a window into each student’s understanding of our language. We can learn just as much from their spelling and grammar as we can from their content and analysis and teachers shouldn’t shy away from the hard truths.

If we don’t take the time to teach spelling and writing, how will we ever hope to improve those skills? Do they just appear magically? Next time you see a student misspelling words, look closely at what she is misspelling.

Is it just a mistake or a sign of a larger literacy problem?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

113 comments Add your comment

David Hoffman

December 6th, 2012
4:08 am

The teacher has some good thoughts. But I am old enough to remember the problems of students so afraid to make a mistake they avoided writing altogether. Teachers wanted to know why essays were turned in with such simple words and story-lines. It was because 90% of your grade depended on punctuation, grammar, neatness, and spelling. The ideas you had did not matter much. Students did what they needed to do to get the highest grade possible, write short simple essays. When teachers reduced the overemphasis on punctuation, grammar, neatness, and spelling ideas flowed out and better stories resulted. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Another thing to think about is that the English language is illogical in its rules. Language scientists have repeatedly stated that you would never use English as an example of how to create a written and spoken language from scratch. There are too many exceptions to almost every rule in English, thus making it ridiculously complex.

Peter Smagorinsky

December 6th, 2012
5:50 am

Any teacher interested in teaching vocabulary through roots and affixes (suffixes & prefixes) and context clues is welcome to use the activities I developed as a high school teacher, and available for free at http://smago.coe.uga.edu/Vocabulary_Games/ExpansionsIndex.htm.

Cindy Lutenbacher

December 6th, 2012
6:18 am

I agree with a number of things this articulate teacher has written, especially the idea that reading makes all the difference in the world. A mountain of research has shown that books are far less available to children in poverty than in the middle and upper classes–and not just because the families cannot afford to buy books. Public libraries are typically less-served or in locations and with hours that make their services difficult and often dangerous for kids who want to read. And our school libraries and trained librarians are often the first to go in these days of budget cuts. Then, there’s the lunacy of NCLB and Race to the Top funding that all but destroys the concept of reading for pleasure; no…reading for points on research-less, standardized tests is the only game in town.

But I do applaud the teacher for attempts to help our kids decipher English. I hope that along the way, she’s focused on helping kids discover and/or nourish the joy of reading. That joy will take kids where they need to be.

The point with which I disagree is the idea that “rules” can teach kids to spell. Our language follows pronunciation rules only about seventy percent of the time. See this url for some fun examples:
http://www.i18nguy.com/english-is-tough.html

By the way, Peter, I love your games. Anyone trying to access the link needs to cut the period at the end of the link.

Peter Smagorinsky

December 6th, 2012
6:28 am

Thanks Cindy, here’s the functioning link for those who missed her note:
http://smago.coe.uga.edu/Vocabulary_Games/ExpansionsIndex.htm

Peter Smagorinsky

December 6th, 2012
6:39 am

At the risk of over-pitching these activities, I found that they both improved vocabulary and improved spelling, because students learned how to combine word elements properly.

South Georgia Retiree

December 6th, 2012
6:43 am

This proves two things. First, this teacher has deep insight into the English language, and many students will benefit from it. I did not learn through the use of phonics but my wife did, and she spells and understands words much better than I. I’ve worked at trying to compensate for the gap in my spelling, but it’s tough to do when you are older.
Second, there are many, many dedicated teachers in Georgia who simply want to see their students learn, and they work hard each day to do their best job. Unfortunately, our leaders in Atlanta don’t care and fail to understand how teachers are the lifeblood of our society; they simply turn a deaf ear. .

Bob

December 6th, 2012
6:49 am

I am old enough to remember a push by some that moved us away from phonics. It seemed like a bad idea then as much as it does now and was well before NCLB. I think the same mentality led us to social promotions so we did not hurt the feelings of failing children. I was a volunteer for project literacy and was assigned a guy that graduated from an inner city high school that could not read a sentence or a ruler.

Cindy Lutenbacher

December 6th, 2012
6:53 am

@ South Georgia Retiree:
Amen to your comments about teachers! Sure, like everyone, I’ve known some who really need a different profession, but I believe that the vast majority are incredibly devoted, hard-working, and caring folks. I speak as a public school volunteer and parent of the preceding eighteen years–and my kids and volunteering have been in schools in majority (some 99%) free- or reduced-lunch fee zones.

catlady

December 6th, 2012
6:53 am

I agree with our commenters. Since English is only 70-80% phonetic, we need to teach the children to also use their visual memory. Does the word “look right?” I have some ESOL second graders with very good visual memory–they can spell even difficult words because they can “see” them–they have read them many times. A child who reads a lot will likely have a much better visual memory word bank to pull from.

Our system unfortunately for way too many years was a part of Reading First. It (vastly over-) emphasized phonics. Now that we don’t use it so strictly, I have seen a decrease in word-attack skills. However, the biggest problem with RF is it did little to push comprehension, which is an absolutely critical part of “reading.” RF sold the idea that decoding words fast was “fluency,” which it was not. Fluency includes decoding, but it is an interaction between reader and text, not just word recognition.

We abandoned spelling when RF came on board; now, our teachers are demanding that it be put back into our curriculum.

Not PC

December 6th, 2012
7:07 am

Without young people using our language correctly, how can they be expected to be productive part of a this society?

Doing this important part of communicating correctyl is worth a few bruised egos.

Dr. Monica Henson

December 6th, 2012
7:18 am

David Hoffman makes an excellent point about the illogic of the rules of the English language. It’s a classic error of new English teachers, who may not themselves have a strong grounding in advanced grammar and linguistics and the history of the language, to believe that if they can just teach the kids “all the rules,” then everything will fall into place. Incidentally, the lack of logic makes sense if you look at the amalgamation of other languages that have contributed to English–there are subsets of rules that make sense by themselves, but not in the larger scheme.
At any rate, the new English teacher makes great points about teaching the nature of words as well as the distinction between spelling and usage (”its” versus “it’s” is a prime example of a usage error confused by many as a spelling error).
Without knowing anything other than what the teacher relates in the prefix incident. There was a very telling assertion made: “Not a single student could tell me what it meant. Crickets. Somehow adding a prefix confused them so much that they could not determine what this new word meant even though it contained the word we just discussed previously. Something was terribly wrong.”
As an administrator who has done a lot of work in new teacher induction and teacher supervision and evaluation, I would ask this teacher, “How did you assess and determine that 100% of your students in fact did not know this information?” I strongly suspect that the teacher asked the whole class the question, and no one offered a response. That doesn’t mean that no one knew—it means that no one indicated whether they knew. This is a classic teacher error—to assume that because no one speaks up and says they don’t know the answer to the teacher’s question, then no one knows the answer. Asking a whole-class question orally and waiting for students to self-identify as not knowing the response is one of the least effective ways to assess learning.
Had the teacher assessed the knowledge differently, perhaps in a brief written preassessment, s/he might have determined that in fact several kids did know. This would enable him/her to target the instruction so that those who did have the prior knowledge didn’t need to sit through a whole-class lesson on the topic. If I were the teacher’s supervisor holding a conference to talk about this issue, I’d ask clarifying questions and help the teacher determine what in fact s/he does know for sure about the students’ prior knowledge, and then guide the teacher in differentiating the instruction so that those who need “the full treatment” get it, and those who already know it aren’t held back.

Holly Jones

December 6th, 2012
7:39 am

As with so many educational “reforms” or new teaching strategies, there seems to be a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Why does it have to be “all phonics, all the time” or “whole language with NO phonics”? Why reinvent the wheel every 5 years or so? Is there no curriculum that balances the two approaches?

And I do agree with Bob from earlier- the “no accountability for grammar” thing started way before NCLB. My brother, who is about 12 years younger than I am, had the whole language approach- no phonics, little emphasis on spelling and grammar. As a result, his high school English grades were atrocious. BTW- my parents read to him just as much as they did to me, which was a lot, so he had the same exposure to seeing the words and hearing the correct grammar as I did in that setting.

I also taught Spanish to those same “whole language” kids in high school. Try explaining subject-verb agreement in a foreign language to kids who can’t identify the parts of speech in their native language. I spent as much time teaching English grammar as I did Spanish.

Mountain Man

December 6th, 2012
7:45 am

“Another thing to think about is that the English language is illogical in its rules. Language scientists have repeatedly stated that you would never use English as an example of how to create a written and spoken language from scratch.”

Amen to that! Especially when it comes to pronunciation.

Mary Elizabeth

December 6th, 2012
7:51 am

The high school teacher has written a thoughful letter, and she understands the need for literacy techniques being taught in curriculum from elementary school through high school. These techniques can (and should) be emphasized in almost all curriculum areas, in conjunction with the teaching of the specific content material.

Reading for comprehension is as essential to the building of literacy as is the understanding of how words are built. Neither should be forfeited. Balance is the key.

For those readers who may desire a rudimentary overview of the teaching of word attack skills – from consonant and vowel sounds, through syllabication techniques, to root words, prefixes, and suffixes, I offer the below link to an entry I posted on my personal blog related to the teaching of word attack skills.

http://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/about-education-essay-7-word-attack-skills/

Mountain Man

December 6th, 2012
7:51 am

Maybe we should all learn Esperanto.

homeschooler

December 6th, 2012
7:56 am

@Catlady, agree completely. I never learned phonics and I was always a great reader. My spelling did suffer in middle and high school due to not learning the rules but overall, I never had issues with reading or spelling. Fast forward to teaching my own kids. I taught phonics to both and my son is a horrible speller. He tends to want to apply rules to everything and has no comprehension of what “looks” right. I would blame this on a lack of reading because he has never read for enjoyment but even words that he sees on a daily basis that are not phonetic, he misspells. He has a very hard time on standardized tests because the spelling task is “fill in the bubble of the misspelled word”.

Do you think that spelling from sight is a skill that some people just possess more than others? My daughter learned phonics with Saxon Phonics. This was a grueling program of coding each and every single sound, syllable etc.. She is an awesome speller even with sight words. If she sees a word and spells it once she commits it to memory.
(on a side note, they have never had an IQ test but I would tend to think my son has a much higher IQ than his sister which is why it is so frustrating that his academic abilities are so much worse than hers)

Sometimes I think some kids are just going to get it easily and others are not regardless of the program used.

Would love to have some suggestions from experienced teachers on how to work with a 12 yr old with bad spelling. Remedial programs? He tends to spell verbally better than he does on paper. He had an academic tutor who did not think he had a disconnect (i.e…dyslexia etc..) but felt he just needed more practice.

In regards to the above, my son who is the bad speller has a very good understanding of latin and greek root words and other mechanics of the English Language. He can easily tell you what something means and has an awesome vocabulary. He is a wiz at vocabulary and grammar. He knows his words and how to put them together. He just can’t spell them!

He is no longer home schooled but is in a small private school and is maintaining a B average. There is no emphasis on spelling unless it is in regards to a spelling test or English paper. If he misspells something in history or science they don’t even bring it to his attention.

Mountain Man

December 6th, 2012
8:01 am

I also agree that READING is essential to proper spelling.

globeflyer

December 6th, 2012
8:06 am

Nothing about this article should surprise anyone. Some parents will not teach their kids anything and wonder why, later in life, the kids don’t succeed. The most successful kids I’ve watched grow into adulthood were the ones where the parents were “hands-on” and used every opportunity to teach their children something.

Ron F.

December 6th, 2012
8:13 am

While many are right that English is a very mixed language with exceptions for every “rule”, I have found in working with older struggling readers that all students need to know and be able to use the rules while also relying on the visual memory of words. Many of my students are weak in both areas, and it helps them to know there is a system they can try that works for 70-80% of words they encounter. It makes them more willing to tackle vocabulary beyond their often very low assessable reading level and gives them specific strategies to try. When they have that base, they are more able to build their visual memory of words, and they begin reading better because they’re not so afraid of text that they assume will always be too hard for them to read. A balanced approach, where phonic skills are taught and used early, better prepares those kids who lack literacy and language experience. Once they realize they can make sense of words, even if only 70-80% of those words, they begin taking on more challenging texts and really trying to read and understand. This also improves their writing skills as they have a larger word bank to express their thoughts.

indigo

December 6th, 2012
8:19 am

Political correctness has forced schools nationwide to dumb down general educational requirements in order to allow minority students to perform at the same level as whites.

The results of this are plain for anyone and everyone to see.

bootney farnsworth

December 6th, 2012
8:23 am

are we ignoring it? no.
in fact, we go to great lengths to hide it/pretend its not there.

sloboffthestreet

December 6th, 2012
8:24 am

Very little in public schools today is taught. It is simply presented. If the lesson presented to the students has been a failed lesson the teacher simply moves on. More rhetoric about this thing called “The Standards.”

And in “Grad School” they created some elusive thing called, “schema,” ??? How brilliant. And people wonder what is wrong with education,,,,,,,

Truth in Moderation

December 6th, 2012
8:29 am

Wow. I didn’t think teachers like this still existed in the public schools. She GETS IT! This teacher was properly trained in grammar, phonics, and spelling and has the tools to properly diagnose learning deficits in her students. To fully understand English, one must look to its origins. The prefix-root-suffix system comes from Latin and Greek, a source for 33% of English words, especially those used in STEM courses. Old English was a Germanic language, of which surviving words represent ca. 25% of modern English. Old Norman French, which did originate from Latin, provides a further 28% of modern English words.
When one studies English, he is actually studying multiple language phonics and spelling rules. This is by no means impossible to teach and is one reason why our ancestors emphasized the study of Latin, Greek, and French. The WW ll generation was still REQUIRED to study Latin in public middle and high school. The most successful way to teach the intricacies of our language is to start in K-5 using the Classical method or the “Trivium.” This method utilizes the known brain development patterns in children.
According to Susan Wise Bauer, an expert on the topic:

“The first years of schooling are called the “grammar stage” — not because you spend four years doing English, but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid, just as grammar is the foundation for language. In the elementary school years — what we commonly think of as grades one through four — the mind is ready to absorb information. Children at this age actually find memorization fun. So during this period, education involves not self-expression and self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts. Rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics — the list goes on. This information makes up the “grammar,” or the basic building blocks, for the second stage of education. ”
http://www.welltrainedmind.com/classical-education/

During this grammar stage, drill and rote repetition IS CRITICAL. This is where the public schools have undermined the students. This stage has purposefully been removed and substituted with a “dumbed down” version utilizing so-called “whole language”. The true nature of the English language has been ignored, to the detriment of the students. Once a student has passed this “parrot” stage without putting these details into their long term memory, IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE to remediate by the time they are in high school, as the author of the article has noted.

Most home schoolers have rejected the failed EXPERIMENTAL whole language method, and have returned to the Classical method, WITH AMAZING RESULTS. I credit this process with the success of all my children in language arts, including one with ADHD and another with Asperger’s syndrome.

Mitch

December 6th, 2012
8:47 am

As far back as 1953 one of my college professors noted that I had trouble with spelling. He told me not to worry, just hire a secretary who was a validictorian. Worked for me.

KIM

December 6th, 2012
8:55 am

Maureen, your article is right on. The teacher made a strong argument for the teaching of all aspects of English language. From reading the posts, I think you have a few “wish I were a published writer, too” folks. Or if they have been published they would like to do it one more time. :)

Peter Smagorinsky

December 6th, 2012
8:55 am

Although I don’t agree with everyone on everything, I’d like to thank everyone for a discussion that generally stays on topic and does not drift off to rants and other agendas. Why can’t this happen more often?????

Truth in Moderation

December 6th, 2012
8:56 am

@homeschooler

Your son might have a learning disability. One of mine, who has ADHD, was taught to read, write, and spell using A Beka phonics curriculum. He STRUGGLED. We spent HOURS on spelling lists. Yet, we continued practicing THROUGH high school. As a young adult, who is gainfully employed and self-supporting, he has noticed that among his co-workers, he is now the one with superior language arts skills, INCLUDING SPELLING.

Digger

December 6th, 2012
9:04 am

Spell-check it and forget it.

Don't Tread

December 6th, 2012
9:16 am

“Is it just a mistake or a sign of a larger literacy problem?”

It’s the sign of a much larger problem, period. When kids can’t spell correctly or use the correct word in a sentence, or do math without a calculator, or any number of other things that they are supposed to know at a certain grade level, what happens? They get promoted to the next grade anyway, which sends the message that there is no accountability.

If they aren’t taught accountability as students, what happens when they become adults? Look at the front page of any newspaper (including this one) and see the results for yourself.

indigo

December 6th, 2012
9:49 am

Don’t Tread – 9:16

That is so politically incorrect that none of the “modern thinking” people will believe it and you will be airly dismissed as a bigot and racist. Truth is not the “in thing” so far this century.

Don't Tread

December 6th, 2012
10:10 am

I never cared much for political correctness :roll:

CJae of EAV

December 6th, 2012
11:02 am

This blog really hits home for me. My sons (8 & 10) manifest moments of what the author is pointing to.

With my 8 year old, I have attempted to foster the organic learning referenced and yet in still can tell by his spelling at this age that phonics is something that I constantly need to reinforce for him.

My 10 year old came my way by marriage and I didn’t have the opportunity to do the same as with his younger brother. He has managed to sail through elementary school (with steller grades I might add) in part due to his ability to recall information. But is often stymied by simple exercises like what’s presented in the blog. Over the last couple of years while they’re has been attempts to ensure he is reading on level (which he absolutely hates to do), there has been little focus on phonics for him which just like his brother I can see he still struggles with on some level.

I agree with the author this very important area that needs consistant reinforcement. Especially now given that many kids can’t grasp the language of Math because they haven’t mastered these basic building blocks of the english language.

Hillbilly D

December 6th, 2012
11:03 am

Phonics and reading are the key, in my opinion.

Maude

December 6th, 2012
11:03 am

I think this teacher is to young to know what is important. What is important is what the student is saying. Today with spell and grammar check let’s just really encourage kids to get their feelings and knowlege on paper without fear of spelling and grammar errors. Errors can be fixed once the thoughts are on paper. This teacher seems to be a throw back to when I was in school 30 years ago.

Private Citizen

December 6th, 2012
11:07 am

If left alone, this teacher could remedy many of these issues within one school year with these students. It may be impossible to do so when the testing intrusion begins and when administrators start hanging around in the classroom like spooks in the corners of a Scooby Doo cartoon and then come back and work-conference with the teacher, telling them what they should and should not be doing. If I was a mentor to this teacher as a worker in Georgia, I would advise them to have a private attorney on stand-by and when the administrators start causing trouble and playing careerist-know-it-all, to routinely copy over and forward any and all email and documentation received to the private lawyer. The alternative is to burn out quickly and stop being a teacher. And even this does not address the testing intrusion that keeps the kids off-task and on the edge of their teeth.

Private Citizen

December 6th, 2012
11:08 am

Gatto said you could take a kid and teach them to read well within a year or two. The New York school system harassed him and treated him as alien.

catlady

December 6th, 2012
11:13 am

I would also note that vowels in English have MORE than 2 sounds. Example: a sounds different in cat, cape, car, awe, and so on.

RCB

December 6th, 2012
11:14 am

I really enjoyed reading this teacher’s email to you, Maureen. I think she will be a great teacher for many years to come. I returned to school years ago as an adult to earn certification in Medical Records Coding. First class up–Medical Terminology. Every course following that built on the terminology skills. I can tell you, I was very thankful to my elementary school teachers for the great lessons I must have learned, by whatever method (1957-1963). Recognizing prefixes, suffixes, root words, etc. made this class almost easy.

Private Citizen

December 6th, 2012
11:23 am

Maude, odd how you have bought into giving authority to children, as if the adults are idiots, much less the teacher. I’m sorry you had dismemorable schooling. I did not. I think you highly take for granted that, evidenced by your post, you write clearly today. This did not happen by magic. You were trained to do so and apparently this is lost on you. I’m stunned. Maybe you work around high level kids who do well on autopilot. Most kids do not.

Accessing prior knowledge (satire): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bIhPr8lY7s

Hillbilly D

December 6th, 2012
11:31 am

Dismemorable?

Private Citizen

December 6th, 2012
11:35 am

Maude, pardon if I’m lacking tact.

paulo911

December 6th, 2012
11:41 am

David Hoffman

December 6th, 2012
4:08 am
______________________________________
Great post ……This is what is required in the current classrooms; correct spelling and all the other
correct ‘thingies’ !!!!!

What of critical thinking???? What is that?

paulo911

December 6th, 2012
11:44 am

Maureen do tell me why you want to MODERATE me!!!!

Sandy Springs parent

December 6th, 2012
12:11 pm

My seventh grade daughter who I taught Phonics my self, buying the old Dick and Jane books that the nuns used in the 1960. Came up to me last night and asked is it okay if I do my homework in cursive writing. Will they mark me off. I told her they she not. She said I don’t understand why they are not teaching it and making kids use it. She then states that even some of the prissy girls can’t write in cursive. I ask how is a future Buckhead Betty going to function in life without cursive penmenship to go along with her monogrammed cards?

My daughter told me that since she was lucky enough to learn cursive in second in second grade at Catholic School, she might as well use it. She went on to ask what are these kids that don’t know cursive going to do when they can’t read some older persons hand writing. All I could tell her is they were going to be disadvantaged. Since, she loves to cook she could see not being able to read Grandma’s receipes..

GOB

December 6th, 2012
12:13 pm

Isn’t this the same thing that every generation has said about the youth of their time? “Kids these days just don’t get it and are destroying the language.” Guess what, the kids that are in school today who can’t spell will be complaining in 20 years when they see what the current generation is doing to the language (along with how lazy they are and how they don’t know anything about work, and how they just want everything handed to them).

Certainly there are basics that must be in place as a foundation, but an awful lot of the comments here seem to fall into the “get off my lawn” category. Language (including spelling, pronunciation, word meaning, and grammar) are constantly evolving and have been since the first person said the first word.

Your parents said the same thing about you, and their parents said the same about them. This is an age-old situation that isn’t going anywhere.

Private Citizen

December 6th, 2012
12:39 pm

GOB, but we talking about conditions for teaching and they have greatly changed. It is real. Teachers are harassed in the classroom and made to do all manner of things. Seriously, you just don’t know.

On the diction thing, I think Dr. Seuss books make all the difference. That stuff is difficult to read for an adult. A lot of the sentences are like a puzzle. Theodor Geisel was a great man. Here’s to Green Eggs and Ham and Sam I Am. This stuff is brilliant. Kids should read it aloud in unision.

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Black fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish. This one has a little star. This one has a little car. Say! What a lot of fish there are. Yes. Some are red. And some are blue. Some are old. And some are new. Some are sad. And some are glad. And some are very, very bad. Why are they sad and glad and bad? I do not know. Go ask your dad. Some are thin. And some are fat. The fat one has a yellow hat.

http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/datasets/one-fish-two-fish-red-fish-blue-fi-3/versions/1

PS GOB, descriptive adjectives may be unacceptable in the school house today due to concern for hurting anyone’s feelings. This makes the kids into obnoxious reactionaries whenever they read anything that is not generic mush. I’m completely serious and for-real.

Private Citizen

December 6th, 2012
12:44 pm

GOB, and again, your post is evidence of someone who can write clearly and you have literally zero concern / reality-check for the youth of today. You need to have a stack of 100 papers in front of you, student work, of bubble writing (where many of the letters are big round circles taking up the line from top to bottom), no margins, and disorganised jumble on paper as writing that you’re supposed to grade and make sense of. What are they doing in the elementary schools, feeding the kids baloney sandwiches and singing songs? Because in many places they’re not doing much.

He went with Bob and I

December 6th, 2012
12:45 pm

I’d be happy just to see an end to people using “I” as the object of a preposition. I’ve given up on there/their/they’re, its/it’s and your/you’re. Maybe in 50 years, people won’t need spelling and grammar. All communication can be done with emoticons and acronyms. LOL, ROTFL, TTFN. Of course, this is IMHO.

Private Citizen

December 6th, 2012
12:47 pm

PS It is difficult to reform a kid’s handwriting skills after they have passed the developmental period and have internalised their writing system of script.

Private Citizen

December 6th, 2012
12:51 pm

Language (including spelling, pronunciation, word meaning, and grammar) are constantly evolving and have been since the first person said the first word.

Good thing you’re not teaching Latin that is the basis of medical terminology. I want you to remember me when you have trouble locating a doctor.